Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer Reading

If anyone visits this blog anymore, they will have noticed the presence of some book-cover photos in the links portion of my page. Those books, which represent a random selection of titles I actually own, are there thanks to the LibraryThing -- a totally free site that provides a place for you to enter the titles of every book you own, whether simply to keep track of them or to participate in the online community also housed at LibraryThing.com. I love my books, and my enthusiasm for often results in my lending them willy-nilly without marking down who has which book! LibraryThing enables me to have a record of who has borrowed what and when and how much their overdue charges amount to... well, just kidding on that last part.

Another cool feature is the count of shared titles -- in other words, how many other people in the LibraryThing community own the books you own. My most common book is, naturally, Pride and Prejudice, which is deservedly popular, and my least common book is (somewhat to my surprise) Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's chilling and beautiful novel Things Fall Apart. 11, 675 other users own P&P, while I am the only user to own Things Fall Apart.

The three new additions to this list, the books I've bought to read this summer, are:

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl (Finished this one. It's amazing. I especially recommend it to those who didn't grow up in America -- the Great Depression is probably the defining event of the post-Civil War U.S. I would even go so far as to say that if you don't understand the Depression, you don't understand America.)

Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship (Reading this now. So far, it's very dense, challenging, and fascinating. I'm really enjoying having to take it slow, and I'm learning a lot! Chronologically it made sense to read this after The Worst Hard Time because WWII basically brought the U.S. out of the Depression.)

Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter's (Looking forward to this. Apparently the building was completely demolished at the whim of a Pope so that he could rebuild it to his specifications. I'm very interested to learn more about the Renaissance through the lens of the building of this important monument.)


Laura's Dad said...

Yes. I agree: whoever does not understand the Depression (AND the war that followed it!), does not understand America. Which, of course, obviates the predicament in which our culture finds itself: completely, indeed obsessively aware of the latest trends discussed on MSN.com and Yahoo.com, but abysmally, indeed intransigently ignorant of the formative history and defining documents of the culture itself. (Ask the average 22-year-old pursuing an MBA to describe the importance of the "Northwest Ordinances," or even when they were written, and chances are you will get a puzzled look at best, despite the fact that this piece was one of four formative documents of the USA. BTW, can you name the other three -- without looking them up somewhere on line?)
We cannot hope to address the future if we are not in touch with the circuitous journey by which we got here, both the blessings and the sins of our fathers. Perhaps the greatest indicator that someone has acquired the ability to think is their capacity to evaluate the past with reference to the future, and see themselves as someone who lives at the cusp. It seems to me to be the beginning of one's sense of eternity, and therefore, accountability.

Laura said...


1. Declaration of Independence
2. Constitution
3. I don't know... I sort of want to say a treaty of some kind.

The word "intransigent" is totally great.

gad said...

Hey Laura --

First, regarding the four formational documents, my guess for number three would be the Bill of Rights. But, I suppose that depends upon whether one counts the Bill of Rights as a separate document or as part of the Constitution.

Second, it's good to have you on LibraryThing. If you really want to get addicted, you might also check out the Chain Reading site (www.chainreading.com) and goodreads (www.goodreads.com). These two sites are less oriented toward maintaining a library catalog and more focused on maintaining reading lists. (goodreads, however, is a bit of both.) Also, my LibraryThing profile lists of 2,700 people as having a copy of Things Fall Apart. I took a look at your catalog, and I wonder if you accidently hit the Monarch Notes version of TFA, rather than the novel itself.

Hope all is well. Howdy and happy fourth to both you and your dad.


Laura said...

Yeah, I really do need to finish entering my books in LibraryThing. I'm loath to bring my laptop home from work, but I'll never get all my books cataloged (I know that's the right spelling, but it looks wrong) if I don't.

Laura's Dad said...

The four formative and foundational documents of the USA are:

1. The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776;
2. The Northwest Ordinances, March 23, 1784, May 20,1785, & July 13, 1787;
3. The Constitution, June 21, 1788; and
4. The Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791.

Have you read them?